Saturday, 19 November 2011

Cardiovascular Crunch Time

The call to cardiovascular fitness for the nation has fallen on deaf ears with pillows pulled over them. On sofas all around Australia, left over pizza has formed a tomato-based superglue, fusing cheap upholstery to tracky daks and creating an irresistible gravitational force to the horizontal.

The problem lies partly in the lack of credible authorities to speak for the slim and buff. It’s simply un-Australian to trust a bloke who looks in a mirror more than once a month even when the state of his beard makes him look like he’s half way through eating a squirrel.

Take for example, Shane Warne, who was always much-admired for his sporting achievements. Later in his career, Warney in his whites was only a couple of rhinestones away from winning a ‘fat Elvis’ look-a-like competition. Yet it was his fallibility to booze, birds, burgers and fags that made the man in the street feel he was really one of them.

Even former role models like policemen have been up-sized in the happy meal of life. Fitness requirements have been scaled down accordingly and the major test now is whether they can walk past a pack of Tim Tams.

So in the absence of true heroes to emulate, the Government must take a low-cal leaf out of the environmentalists’ book and introduce new legislation to win the hearts, minds and fatty livers of Australia.

Any fast food purchased must now be kilojoule-neutral. This would mean that drive-throughs become illegal for anyone actually in a car. When ordering, customers will be required to perform star jumps for each item requested, while being barked at incomprehensibly through the speaker by a retired PE teacher. A family bucket of KFC? Would you like a half-marathon with that? The collection window would also be sited slightly farther away than at present. By up to a couple of suburbs.

Those opting to dine in will be seated at benches reclining at 45degrees with feet uppermost, tucked under a smiling plastic Ronald McDonald’s armpits. If you can’t do the crunches, or at least get your little pudgy arms past your stomach, the burger goes in the bin.

Punishments for transgression will be severe. Greenies that rationalise their four-wheel drive and jet-set lifestyles by paying some unseen person to plant trees for their environmental sins will now have workforces co-opted from junk food junkies digging the holes. A troop of dietary recidivists will also be called upon to peddle the Western Power bikes when Perth’s usual method of electricity generation fails as a result of a bird coughing particularly forcibly atop a power pole.

The bigger polluters can of course purchase carbon credits and similarly, if you have a special occasion coming up, it will be possible to buy lard-on credits. This will ensure that five-star restaurants can continue to literally make a killing.

Dr Nitschke will write another book, this time espousing the over-the-counter availability of large potions of Death by Chocolate for the terminally ill or chronically down-in-the-dumps.

Even politicians will be expected to fall into line, with a human weighbridge being installed at the entrance to Parliament House. Transgressors will be given a talking-to by Tony ‘Iron-Man’ Abbott, Australia’s slightly sheepish answer to Vladamir Putin. Be afraid, Joe Hockey, be very afraid.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

‘Ello Jane, got a new motor?

Most species on Earth have evolved over the millennia. Some have grown legs and adapted to life on land, many have lost their tails and the slower ones just host the Footy Show.

Others, however appear to have made little progress since they unexpectedly developed a second cell and thought “Now what in Hell am I supposed to do with that?”

Amongst this latter group, we must unfortunately include the Car Dealer. Watching this species in action is like being caught in a weird time warp, hovering in between the Creature from the Black Lagoon and an endless loop of 70’s Minder episodes.

I had assumed that the old stereotype of the car dealer, whereby on leaving you not only check your credit cards and jewellery, but also do a quick inventory of your major organs, had gone. However, spending an hour at my local Hyundai dealer in Melville this weekend left me wondering if, when the dealership lights are switched on in the morning, do these guys all have to restrain themselves from the urge to run under the fridge?

The main man, known only by a set of initials, (because everyone knows that’s way cooler than having a real name) was clearly too important to spend all but a cursory few seconds talking to me. No doubt having been put in the Middle Aged Female - Easy Prey category, I was handed over to an affable minion with mesmerizingly bad teeth and a physique that was clearly modelled on a lava flow. He may not have had the body of an athlete, but it was altogether possible he’d eaten a couple for breakfast.

I did a test drive of the car of my choice which passed quite pleasantly while the salesman told me all about himself and I organised to return two days later for a valuation to be done on my own vehicle.

This was where it got interesting. I returned on a busy Saturday at the tail end of a promotion and the place was abuzz. There seemed to be lots of salesmen but they clearly felt safer hanging out in pairs in case they were separated from the herd and picked off by wily potential customers.

The call was put out for the Expert Valuer, who was referred to in such reverential tones that I suspected he was actually a Jedi Valuer.

I realise now how vulnerable I was in this evolutionary backwater where respect is meted out in direct proportion to the testosterone exuded. I was a single, middle aged blonde with a teenage daughter, trying to trade in her European convertible for something with a bit more substance. Effectively, I was a wounded antelope turning up at a lion family reunion barbecue. The sound of salivation was deafening.

After much waiting and, to give him credit, a number of rapid apologies from Initial Man as he oozed past, the Commandment from the Jedi Valuer was presented. Initial Man and Lava Boy gathered and looked Simultaneously Solemn as they drew in their breath over their teeth and quoted Chapter 1, Verse 1 of the Red Book. ‘Thou shalt get only 50% of what thy vehicle is worth because thou shalt not know any better being as you’re a woman without a man.’

I strongly suspect that I will receive a phone call in the next day or so giving me the good news that he’s found someone prepared to take on my car as a favour and actually pay me another thousand dollars or two over the price he gave me, now that I’ve been softened up and left to contemplate the worthlessness of my chosen mode of transport. This will of course still be some $7,000 shy of the trade-in price on the RedBook valuation certificate I have just purchased, but I shouldn’t worry my pretty little head over that, should I?

Perhaps I should question my own intellectual evolution, for ever have expected anything better.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

History repeats itself

Word travelled around the village faster than an outbreak of boils. The Sheriff’s tax collection squad was on its way yet again.

Two large blokes wearing rusty chainmail and helmets that needed only the addition of a few holes to make them look like a condiment set marched up the dusty street. They tugged open the door to one of the wretched little shacks, pulling it off its hinges and sending chickens, straw and a fair amount of what chickens leave in straw, flying.

A small, weasely man in fine black clothes that until very recently had had no chicken poo attached to them whatsoever, strode in behind them.
“Nice stinking hovel you have here sir” he said, looking around incredulously at the small, bare room which was home to a skinny, hairy dishevelled man, several hundred creatures inhabiting the man’s beard and a smell that could make your eyes water.

“It’s a dump” mumbled the man “but we like to think of it as home.”

Niceties dispensed with, the Tax Collector got, as they inclined to do, to the point. “We’re here” he said “to collect your Carbon Tax.”
The peasant looked puzzled. “But only last Tuesday we paid you the Sending the King to the Crusades Tax , so what’s a Carbon Tax?” he asked, with growing concern.

“Ahh, I’m pleased that the peasants are taking an interest in current affairs” said the weasely man. “The Carbon Tax is on account of the carbon footprint created by sending an army of 10,000 soldiers, a King, his courtiers, jesters, cooks, food tasters and concubines etc, to countries with Crusades going on. It’s called Foreign Policy.”

“But I haven’t gone crusading” said the peasant “so why do I have to pay this tax? Surely big business like the blacksmith’s shop should pay. They’re the ones using all the fossil fuels.”

The Tax Collector sighed as he summoned up the will to go through an explanation that had clearly been repeated on many previous occasions.
“It’s the benefit of living in a democratic society that values equality and a fair shake of the sauce bottle for everyone” he said, raising his voice over the peasant’s query about what ‘sauce’ was. “We provide public services to give you quality of life. Think of all the burning oil we had to use to stop the invading hordes climbing into the Sheriff’s castle. Admittedly it turned out to be just a few blokes who had eaten a few too many fermented turnips, but nevertheless we had to defend the place. Just think what they could have done to the tapestries with turnip-covered hands.”

The peasant looked less than convinced, so the weasely man carried on. “And of course there is the cost of keeping the village witch-free” he said.”Do you have any idea how many tonnes of C02 were released into the atmosphere at last Wednesday’s witch-burning?” he asked “It’s no longer an environmentally sustainable practice and there’s a recommendation that we start nuking them instead. Apparently it’s perfectly safe.” he added reassuringly."Except for the witches, of couse."

As the peasant was scratching his chin in a bewildered, unconvinced and definitely infested sort of way, the Tax Collector pulled from out of his briefcase a clipboard, stepped back a few feet and addressed the stooped old man.

“This is so we can assess the size of your carbon footprint and work out what you owe” he explained.“Firstly – do you own any cattle?”
“Just Daisy” the peasant said, indicating a scrawny bag of bones standing outside the window.
“Has it had a Methane Emissions Modifier fitted?” asked the Tax Collector. Seeing the peasant’s brow furrow further, he reached again into his briefcase, pulled out a large cork and handed it to the man. “This is the next generation of the government’s generous Insulation Program” he explained. “A couple of guys will arrive in the next few weeks to install this, but, just as a word to the wise sir, keep any naked flames away from the bovine after it’s been fitted. Those things go up like bloody rockets.
Now – do you own any goats, horses or donkeys?” he continued.
“Just a mule” replied the increasingly bewildered peasant. “Hmm- commendable” muttered the other man appreciatively, as he wrote ‘hybrid vehicle’ on the form.

“So – this Carbon Tax thingy” said the peasant.”This being a democracy and all, if I don’t like it, is there anyone I can speak to about it? Maybe that Rudd bloke I voted for last time round?”
“No problem, sunshine.” Said the Tax Collector. “Head down to the city gates and look up. He’s the one with his head on a spike.”

 Wendy Wardell 2011

Sunday, 22 May 2011

House-training for stress-puppies

Society has always embraced ‘cure-all’ remedies. Leeches, herbs and general elections have all had their turn in the spotlight and have only rarely failed to disappoint. (Although overall, the leeches polled better than the politicians.)

If ‘one-size-fits-all’ doesn’t work for cures, why don’t we try it for diagnoses instead? ‘Stress’ is a diagnostic blanket that can be thrown over even the most relentless heartsink patient. It’s a relatively recent clinical diagnosis not because it didn’t previously exist, but because historically, factors that have caused stress tended themselves to be more terminal. Take this scenario;
Cavewoman to friend “Your husband Ug look terrible today. He still stressed about being bad hunter?”
Friend “No – his stress cured by sabre-toothed tiger that ate him.”

The cramped convict ships en route to Van Diemen’s Land didn’t have weepy sailors lining up to see the ship’s doctor about insomnia, because cholera, malnutrition and ten-metre waves can overcome night-terrors about weevils in the Weetabix. History is silent on how many members of Attila the Hun’s invading hordes were ever granted Stress Leave when their kitten died.

Kids living in sanitised environments get asthma because their immune systems have nothing more challenging to deal with. Similarly our nervous system will unleash adrenaline on the merest provocation because there are few physical perils left in life, if you discount riding in Sydney taxis.
Even air travel is so safe now that instead of screaming “arrgghhh’ as they plunge to their death in a fireball, people work themselves into a lather of stress over the tiniest invasions of personal space. Hitler may have taken over France with ease but would have been given no quarter today in a skirmish over a few square centimetres of luggage compartment. Wars break out over the breach of a no-fly zone in the airspace above a passenger’s knees when a chair-back is reclined into it. Maybe in space no-one can hear you scream, but at 30,000 feet the whining is deafening.

Because in recent years Australia hasn’t been at war with anyone except more capable cricket teams, TV magazine programs have been reduced to inciting fear over household objects; from bacteria on our chopping boards to bikies under our beds. There’s water in our meat and dead meat in our water. There’s no longer anything we can eat without fear and by going to bed hungry, we’re just a light supper for the bedbugs. Those that haven’t developed OCD yet are simply not paying enough attention.

The media is a major stress carrier. It would never have occurred to us to adopt the foetal position when faced with a domestic dishcloth before, but images of oozing petrie dishes and men with scientifically credible facial hair provide apparently overwhelming evidence and we learn to worry.

Doctors prescribing their patients a large tube of Harden Up and telling them to apply it liberally won’t win any awards for bedside manner. Perhaps though, agitated souls will be consoled by the knowledge that at least being stressed is a pretty good indicator that they aren’t yet dead.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Virgin Experience

Dear Virgin
You may well be patting yourself on the back this week for achieving your tenth birthday, but I fear that an excess of fairy bread and red cordial has gone to your heads and that the nice man in the white coat will soon be giving Mr Branson a big bottle of Ritalin for his Australian team.
I suspect that those who manage your website have been too busy playing Pin the Tail on the Chairman to notice, but your site has had all the speed and functionality this week of a Collins Class submarine in dry dock.
The first indication that all was not well was when I tried to top up my daughter’s mobile phone credit. Your website had obviously been told to go and tidy its room and was in a resultant sulk, doing the bare minimum to avoid getting a smack upside the head whilst remaining stubbornly uncooperative.  However, it managed to take the money from my credit card, which it will no doubt spend on lollies, whilst not providing any phone credit.
This resulted in my having to play Musical Chairs around your phone system, leaving me begging the music to stop to give me time to stem the blood flow from my ears.  Your selection of music is a cruel and unusual torture that makes being waterboarded seem like an afternoon in the skatepark by comparison.
I became a human Pass-The –Parcel going from one automated system to another until I finally found a grown-up to help me and try and explain why Virgin was helping itself to my money and giving me less in return than a dawn raid from the Australian Taxation Department.
The following day I was due to pay my own mobile phone bill and I once again approached the piñata of delights that is the Virgin website simply to make a credit card payment. Alas the papier maché that holds the Virgin behemoth together proved impervious to my waving a plastic card around and eventually the computer said ‘no’. I tried again this morning – same result.
I then realised that we had entered a new phase of Hide and Seek, where I seek some way of giving you money and you hide before you have to give me any customer service. I attempted payment by phone today. I’m sorry, but I haven’t listened to anyone quite as irritating as the guy on your phone system since my last marriage.
To cut a long bedtime story short, needless to say it still didn’t work and I was told that I would be able to talk to someone about it, but that the phone call would be recorded.  What happened then was very rare and very special for the Virgin call centre system. Silence.  A void of noise normally only experienced on asking if someone can help you bath the cat.
I relished the absence of infuriatingly earnest and up-beat  young bloke in my ear and definitely the dearth of techno music.  Actually there was a complete nonexistence of anyone to speak to. I assume someone must have pushed orange jelly into the audio system.
Now, as we know, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or in this case, their credibility. I’d like to pay you, but you have made it impossible and I’ve lost the will to play more party games.
I’ll look forward to your response when the sugar high’s worn off.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Travel ill-advisory

The world is a dangerous place and if watching nightly news reports doesn’t scare you half to death, reading Government Travel Advisories will.
There are, it seems people in every corner of the world plotting the downfall of the easy-going Aussie. This is what you get for trying to pass off Four X as beer to foreigners – it really ticks them off. It’s probably also responsible for climate change induced natural disasters. A million cows exuding methane from four stomachs is nothing on the toxic emissions of a six- pack of that gassy, ghastly brew passing through the digestive system of a Queenslander. It could be Australia’s very own weapon of mass destruction. Forget all that messy uranium and Googling ‘how to build your own nuke’.  Just send over a few raw recruits with a carton of Castlemaine’s finest and an hour up their sleeve. As soon as the impulse to light their own farts kicks in, the job is done.
I’m travelling soon to Dubai, which in the current Middle Eastern turmoil is a little oasis of calm in the midst of lots of blokes with beards and rocket launchers having a frank exchange of opinion. It’s so nice to see Facebook being used for something other than stalking 14 year old girls. Needless to say that the Government travel advice for anywhere in that region is less than reassuring. Forget travel insurance; just make sure your will is up to date and don’t start reading any long books.
This made me wonder what kind of advice foreigners are given about Australia. Quite frankly, it makes running naked through central Baghdad screaming ‘I want to have George Bush’s babies’ look lightweight by comparison.
The UK Government travel advice talks about a rare disease which one man in Tennant Creek caught back in 2004, but completely fails to mention that if you stay in the sun more than ten minutes your nose will melt and your face fall off. It talks of the dangers of sharks and crocodiles but nothing about how the wearing of socks and sandals will mark you as an enemy of the State and will have you shot on sight. This is why, when you see a person who is the colour of a letterbox with a white section from mid-calf down and a hunted expression, you know they’re a Pom.
The advice talks about how great the distances are in Australia when in reality, it’s what’s close to you that is really scary, as anyone who has woken up next to someone they met in Kings Cross will be able to tell you.
Australia’s dangerous wildlife and interesting bacterial diseases are given extensive coverage while not a word is devoted to the reasons why a kebab in St Kilda at 3am is not a Good Idea or what really goes into a Chiko roll.
There is even a Facebook page attached to the website where I was disappointed not to find some more practical counsel for travellers, although the advice not to go to a number of Middle East countries was ‘liked’ by Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qu’eda team.
It’s time we wrote the alternative travel advisory for foreign tourists to Australia. Starting with the Drop Bears.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Warts and all

Well , my last post was spookily accurate and the plagues of boils have arrived. Sort of. My Persian cat is so high bred that being blue-blooded isn't enough - she's exuding blue mounds like some sort of plague -ridden Smurf. Quite frankly, she's lumpier than a bag full of canetoads.

This isn't however a new thing. She first broke out with a few of these some five years ago,and now has them popping up more frequently than Lindsay Lohan's mentions in court reports.

They're called pseudo mycetomas and despite their ability to frighten small children and make vets salivate at the income prospects they seem relatively innocuous to the wearer, at least until they erupt. My quest has been to find a vet who is prepared to do more than look startled before composing themselves enough to calculate how many payments they can make on their Porsche per blue lump removed.

I figured the Western Suburbs surcharge was elevating the quotes, if not the interest level around the Mosman Park area, so I ventured south of the river by around 100 metres to East Fremantle. I hadn't counted on the fact that hippy vets also have trendy lifestyles and probably many little hippy children to support, so the net result was much the same.

I contacted Murdoch University's vetinary school and was encouraged by their knowledge and pro-active approach to treating the condition. I'm wondering though if I can get a HECS loan to cover the fees as I'm not sure if they were quoting a price to treat the cat or train me as a vet.

It's ironic that I also visited the doctor this week for my own swathe of moles, warts and other nodules that have suddenly swelled to a size big enough to steal the quilt in the night and apply for Government-assisted housing. All I have to do is return there in a couple of days to have a small flamethrower waved over them and I can waltz out again 15 minutes later only marginally lighter of wallet and smelling vaguely of barbecued chicken.

This is just one of the reasons we should all be very grateful we're not cats, aside from the licking your own bottom clean thing.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A Big Day In

It’s Waitangi Day and I can’t find a single event in Perth in celebration of the fact. I find it hard to believe that the locals are missing an excuse to rip the top off a tinny, even if it is in reference to the deadly rivals across the ditch. Either every scaffolder and bouncer in the State has gone back home or the Aussies are scared the Kiwis will challenge them to a cricket match. It’s OK guys – just remember that the skinny red end of the bat points up.

The Big Day Out is on and I would be really tempted to go and see some of the bands, particularly the locals like Gyroscope and Birds of Tokyo. But as someone of mature age I’m too scared to go in case they direct me to the ‘over 40’s’ segregated area in the cemetery over the road. At least then I could party with some of the residents who have been woken by the volume and help judge the Victoria Beckham Look-Alike Competition.

Once more Western Australia is in its element. Fire, yet again.  My heart goes out to those who have lost so much across the country in recent weeks. Lashings of water and very large lumps of air have caused devastation to most of the east, which gives the impression it’s drowning, not waving. Some of the more wild-eyed followers of Islam may believe that Allah is punishing western evil and decadence. If that's the case, you would have to question how he managed to miss Canberra off his ‘to do’ list.

The south west of WA was threatened with a cyclone last weekend and I have to confess to being quietly a little bit excited. I think though, that having glimpsed Port Hedland on its trip down the coast, the cyclone lost its will to live and pounded Perth with a light zephyr and some drizzle on car windscreens. My cat sneezes with more force than Cyclone Anthony managed. Cyclone Yasi was obviously it’s teenage cousin, fuelled up on cane sugar, msg and raging hormones, tearing through the pantry of Queensland in search of a snack, throwing a paddy and slamming the door as it left.

In terms of religious imagery, the disasters do have some rather Biblical overtones, especially when you consider the plagues of frogs (alright – cane toads) and locusts that have also been evident. I’m on the look-out for good poultice recipes in readiness for the boils.